Original Research

Supporting a student with visual impairment in the intensive care unit

Michael Rowe, Tania Steyl, Joliana Phillips, Anthea Rhoda
South African Journal of Physiotherapy | Vol 75, No 1 | a1324 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajp.v75i1.1324 | © 2019 Michael Rowe, Tania Steyl, Joliana Phillips, Anthea Rhoda | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 December 2018 | Published: 31 July 2019

About the author(s)

Michael Rowe, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Tania Steyl, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Joliana Phillips, Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
Anthea Rhoda, Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: The Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape began accepting students with visual impairments (VIs) into the undergraduate physiotherapy programme in 1996. However, until recently, none had received a clinical rotation in any high care setting.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of all stakeholders involved in the process of placing a student with VI into the intensive care unit (ICU).

Method: This case study used interviews with relevant stakeholders to explore their experiences of integrating the ICU placement into the student’s clinical programme. Interviews were recorded and transcribed, and then analysed thematically.

Results: There was a certain amount of anxiety present, especially among clinical staff, before the placement began. Discussions among stakeholders at each stage of the process served to identify potential problems before they arose, and allowed staff to plan solutions in advance. Challenges were found in both the attitudes of staff, and in the clinical environment, some of which were relatively easy to address, while others will require significant investments of resources to resolve.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that it may be possible to successfully place students with VI into intensive care settings, and they can enjoy positive learning experiences, given an appropriate context and adequate support. However, care needs to be taken at every stage of the process to ensure that supporting structures are in place prior to, and during, the placement.

Clinical implications: All stakeholders, including the students and the relevant clinical and academic staff, need to be actively involved in the process of planning for the clinical placement.


Keywords

visual impairment; intensive care unit; physiotherapy education; disability; intensive care

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